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CNN Larry King Live
Hurricane Rita Threatens Texas/Louisiana Coast
Aired September 22, 2005 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, CNN HOST: Tonight, with a monster Hurricane Rita roaring towards a Saturday morning collision with Texas, hundreds of thousands are crawling away in bumper-to-bumper evacuations that stretch for miles. Are they going to get out in time? We'll get the latest from the mayors and reporters across Rita's targets and areas next on LARRY KING LIVE.
Welcome to another edition of LARRY KING LIVE. We're in Washington tonight and our panelists include in New York, Sam Champion of WABC-TV. Here in Washington is Bill Nye, the Science Guy, the scientist engineer, best-selling author and Emmy-winning television personality. He's host of "The Eyes of Nye" on PBS, a member of the National Advisory Board of the Union of Concerned Scientists.
In State College, Pennsylvania is Ken Reeves. Ken is senior meteorologist and director of forecasting operations for AccuWeather.
We'll be checking in with Anderson Cooper in Galveston, Texas.
And with us as well for most of the hour will be Mayor Lyda Ann Thomas, the mayor of much beleaguered Galveston, Texas.
Let's start with Bill Nye. How bad is this?
BILL NYE, "THE SCIENCE GUY": I think it's real bad and my concern is it's only September. You know by the time it gets to be Thanksgiving or so we could have two or three more of these, four or more of these.
And then in the long term, the atmosphere is getting warmer, so when you have warmer water in the mid-Atlantic you're going to have more hurricanes and they're going to be stronger, so this gets into this business of global climate change. Now, we got immediate problems and immediate misery but I think it's not inappropriate to think about the long term.
KING: We'll get back to a lot of that.
Sam Champion, this is now a category four. Will it go back to a five or don't we know?
SAM CHAMPION, WABC-TV: Larry, that's a really good question. The next couple of hours we'll watch it. It's moving into a warmer pool of water. It spent some time today in a cold, what they call a cooler eddy (ph) of water and it had some eye fall reformation, which allowed it to kind of weaken a little bit, so it dropped from that five to a four. It now looks like it will stay a four and maybe even wobble back a little bit to a five. It will be interesting to see if it does once it gets into that warmer water.
KING: What's the situation, Ken Reeves, from your standpoint, senior meteorologist, director of forecasting for AccuWeather? How bad is this going to be?
KEN REEVES, ACCUWEATHER SENIOR METEOROLOGIST: Well, Larry, it's going to be a rather bad storm and I know there will be stories about it weakening and getting stronger, weakening and getting stronger.
It's going to be a strong probably category four when it's making landfall somewhere between Galveston and Port Arthur, Texas during the early morning hours on Saturday and that's going to create quite a storm surge, maybe 20 to 25 feet.
And, because it's jogged a little farther north during the course of the day today, we're going to have to keep an eye and see whether it maybe turns a little more to the west. But, nonetheless, it does raise a little bit more concern for the New Orleans area as well.
KING: Chad Myers at the CNN weather anchor desk in Atlanta, is there a category six?
CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: No, there's not. It goes from 156 and then above and that's it. They get super typhoons out in the Pacific because there's a much bigger ocean out there and they can get to 185, 190, but no we could not get to a category six.
This storm, though, I tell you everybody is talking about this four/five thing. That's only a very small part of the inner core, Larry. The rest of the storm is just as big. It goes from Cuba to New Orleans and Florida to Texas. People have to get out of the way of this thing.
KING: All right, what's the situation, Mayor Thomas, of Galveston in your city? How many are gone?
MAYOR LYDA ANN THOMAS, GALVESTON, TEXAS: I think about 90 percent of our population has now evacuated the island.
KING: And how long do you stay?
THOMAS: I will be here throughout the storm. I don't -- haven't left before and I'm not going to leave now.
KING: Well, if they're evacuating where do you have safe haven?
THOMAS: We're moving the government offices to the San Luis (ph) Hotel, which is built on top of two World War II bunkers, so we're about 39 feet above the sea level here so we think we're going to be high and dry.
KING: Anderson Cooper, you're with the mayor, where do you stay? ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm going to try to stay as close to the mayor as possible. The San Luis Hotel is being nice. They're letting us rent out a conference room. We hope to stay there and, you know, it seems to be the most solid building. It's weathered a lot of storms here.
It's a beautifully run hotel, so we're hoping to kind of just hunker down there as much as we can and fall back to there if we need to. We'll try to show our audience as much of the storm as possible and then use that as a fallback location.
KING: Let's check in with Rob Marciano in Bay Town, Texas, our CNN weatherman and news anchor as well. Rob, where is Bay Town in relation to Galveston?
ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Basically, Bay Town is right between Galveston and Houston. It's on the northern tip of Galveston Bay, so it's an area of concern if this storm were to come either right up Galveston or just to the south of Galveston, putting it in the right front quadrant, giving it that all too familiar storm surge that was felt in southwestern Mississippi.
Also, what you see behind me is one of the if not the largest oil refineries in America and the western bank of Galveston Bay is lined with oil refineries and petrochemical plants, so there's a huge issue with that.
Even if this storm goes east of Galveston Bay and at this point the present track looks like it wants to do that, then east and northeast winds will have a similar effect to what we saw just last week in North Carolina and will pile a lot of (INAUDIBLE) significant storm surge on the western end of Galveston Bay and that's where a lot of the oil refineries are over by Texas City, so there's going to be a big issue there.
And then, closer to the border over by Sabine (ph) Lake and Sabine Pass and Southwestern Louisiana, Cameron Parish, that's all flat land and they're going to see a storm surge that will go well, well inland, and we're going to stay very close to I-10 and not venture too far south at least during the storm -- Larry.
KING: Bill Nye, I hope this isn't stupid. There's no way of changing this, right?
NYE: Stopping the hurricane, no.
KING: This is going to hit. There's no way it's going to turn and go out to the left or go somewhere?
NYE: Well, probably not. See, nowadays the mathematical models used to generate these storm tracks, I mean the term everybody likes is the strike zone and the cone of impact they're very accurate.
I mean if you're off -- I remember as a kid they've be off 100 nautical miles, no trouble, 150 nautical miles, so now they're off 20 or 30 nautical, 50 nautical miles. The thing is enormous. It's 100 nautical miles across. I mean even if it misses it hits you kind of thing.
KING: Got you. Jeff Koinange, our CNN correspondent, normally in Africa is and has been for a long time in New Orleans. What are they saying there, Jeff?
JEFF KOINANGE, CNN AFRICA CORRESPONDENT: I'll tell you, Larry there's a lot of angry and very depressed people here in New Orleans. The National Hurricane Center declared a tropical storm warning here in the state of Louisiana and also New Orleans. There was light rain all afternoon.
People are so unhappy, especially in Jefferson Parish. Remember the place where they had just welcomed back over 200,000 people and now they are having to leave. We interviewed quite a few of them today, Larry. They were telling us what's going on? Why are we being hit with this double whammy? A lot of people having no choice, Larry, but to turn around and head back where they were.
KING: Sam, what's the best guesstimate of what New Orleans is going to get Saturday?
CHAMPION: Well, actually Friday is probably a troubling day for them as well as they'll get into some tropical storm force winds. It does look like they can easily get into the 30, 50 mile-per-hour wind zone and maybe even a little bit higher than that.
There have been 15, 20-foot waves off the coast of Louisiana tonight. There will be again tomorrow. The waves are running well ahead of the center or the pounding center of this storm in the ocean, so they'll have those waves tonight through the day tomorrow, then the gusty winds tomorrow.
There's been some scattered rain through there today. We feel like they could get, you know, six inches of rain in some portions of that Louisiana area. The general range for them has been about two to four expecting but in some of these thunderstorms since they started today, I think they could come out with a six-inch total easy in some of those areas.
KING: Ken Reeves, could this be worse than Katrina?
REEVES: Well, it's probably not going to be worse from the standpoint of New Orleans because they've had so much damage already but there obviously is some concern because we aren't really sure.
You know, we know there could be anywhere from two to six inches of rain perhaps in New Orleans, at least in parts of the area. There's going to be a storm surge of a couple of feet that may find its way into Lake Pontchartrain at some point.
The real question though, Larry, is whether or not all the repairs and any hidden damage on the levee system may be compromised by that slight increase and the rain as well.
As for the Texas coast, as I was saying yesterday, I think where it makes landfall we are going to see the same kind of damage relative to what they received in southern Mississippi and southern Alabama from Katrina.
So, that storm surge coming in as well as the winds are going to cause quite a havoc on the Texas coast. Whether or not they cause the same amount of total damage really is dependent on whether Galveston County gets hit or not.
KING: We'll take a break and, as we go to break, we'll show you a live scene of traffic in the city of Houston, Texas. Houston pretty usually has traffic problems. Boy they got it tonight.
You're watching LARRY KING LIVE. Look at that. And, when we come back more with our mayor of Galveston, more with our panel, we'll be joined soon by Max Mayfield, the director of the National Hurricane Center. Don't go away.
KING: Rob Marciano in Bay Town, Texas, Houston is a pretty big, rather safe city. Why are people leaving Houston?
MARCIANO: Well, the winds for one thing. I mean when this thing grew to 175 mile-an-hour winds and with the wind field being at 80 miles wide, you're talking about a moderate size tornado basically about 200 miles wide, so that's enough to do some serious damage to Houston.
I'll admit I'm not quite as familiar with the slosh models or the computer models that project how much water will actually come inland during a storm surge but the bay behind me, the northern tip of Galveston Bay is pretty close to the city of Houston itself and with rivers flowing through Houston as well, there's likely to be some sort of storm surge flooding if it were to take a track right up Galveston Bay.
At this point that doesn't look like it's going to happen but wind damage is going to be a serious issue, Larry, and that's one of the reasons that folks evacuated.
The other reason, I mean plain and simple, Katrina, people are spooked. People are scared. People are running for the hills. And, I'll tell you there is a dire situation happening tonight along I-45 between Houston and Dallas, people stuck in their cars, running out of gas, trying to get to higher ground away from this storm.
And some people were describing it with record 99/100-degree heat today as equivalent to what happened in the Superdome except spread out across north Houston in some of the cars.
So, hopefully that situation will work itself out before the storm hits because you don't want those people stuck on the interstate as the storm hits. Certainly people are spooked and they got out and the evacuation orders were issued and they're going.
KING: Joining us on the phone is Mayor Jim Phillips. He's mayor of Freeport, Texas, which we understand is south of Galveston. Will you get it before Galveston gets it, mayor? MAYOR JIM PHILLIPS, FREEPORT, TEXAS (by telephone): Yes, we're south of the Galveston Island and as we look at it now the storm is projected to go into our north. We will catch hurricane force winds but we're some 40 miles to the south of Galveston along the Texas coast.
KING: So what's your worst case scenario?
PHILLIPS: Our worst case scenario is that we'll get some high tide. We'll get hurricane force winds but that's primarily it, a little bit of minor flooding but certainly we're on the dry side of the storm as it's now projected.
KING: Thank you, Mayor Phillips and good luck to you.
PHILLIPS: Thank you.
KING: Mayor Thomas, the mayor of Galveston, what is your worst fear? Mayor Thomas, do you hear me? OK, we lost Mayor Thomas.
What should be, Bill Nye, the worst fear in Galveston if it gets hit head on?
NYE: Well, people losing their land and a way to get out for people who can't get out.
KING: Homes flooding?
NYE: Yes, flooding ruins stuff ruins our human materials and when you can't get out that's when it's really bad. You get stuck and people think they're going to ride it out and then they can't and then we all got to help them and that costs a lot of resources, costs a lot of tax dollars to deploy a lot of assets, as we say nowadays and we're not always successful.
KING: Do we have Max Mayfield yet? OK, we're waiting for Max Mayfield.
Sam Champion, do you get any kind of reading? I was with Senator John Breaux tonight of Louisiana and he expects it to be very bad in Lake Charles, Louisiana, which is his home base. Is it going to be bad?
CHAMPION: Yes, I think so, Larry, because remember when we look at a hurricane we draw a circle around it just like it was a clock and then split it in quarters, read it from the twelve to three like a clock and that's the worst part of the hurricane.
So, if you put the center of this storm and you kind of run it in northeast of Galveston, and then you look how it affects the coastline that runs all the way up to Lake Charles as being some of the worst affects of this storm, so you're sweeping the water in that direction and it could be a 15-foot high storm surge even as far away as that, could be about 100 miles from the center of this storm that we see about a 15-foot high wall of water sweeping the coastline. So, it is going to be a little tough for Lake Charles. The only thing that would make it better is if this storm picked a spot a little further south on the coastline. But from where we think it will go and where it's likely to trend over the next 24 hours, it's that North Texas into that western part of Louisiana that gets walloped with this. Just like when you look at Katrina it was east of New Orleans. You look at that Mississippi/Alabama coastline where the disaster, where the damage was just so bad.
KING: Max Mayfield, who is director of the National Hurricane Center and based in Miami, we go back a long way, Max have you ever seen one like this?
MAX MAYFIELD, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER: We certainly did about three weeks ago, Larry. This is actually about the same intensity as Katrina near the time of landfall and this is also becoming a very large hurricane, like Katrina.
KING: So, there's a lot of similarities?
MAYFIELD: That's right and just like in Katrina the greatest potential for the large loss of life is from that storm surge flooding on the immediate coastline. And I know you were just talking about the Cameron/Lake Charles area. That's a very good point.
Also, depending on the landfall, the Port Arthur/Beaumont area, you know, the highest storm surge will be near and just to the east of where the center crosses the coast and it's really not a wall of water. It's more like a dome of water, you know. The tides are already above normal now and they will continue to increase and then increase quite rapidly near the time of landfall.
KING: Is there anything, Max, worse about it from your standpoint?
MAYFIELD: Well, I don't know how it could be much worse, Larry, here. I think if there's anything good to be learned, you know, from Katrina, it's the fact that, you know, people have been reminded what a very powerful hurricane can do and certainly it appears that people are listening to the advice of those local officials and, you know, there are massive evacuations underway and that's a good thing.
We have to be mindful that after Rita makes landfall we expect the forward motion to really slow down and this could even stall about into the weekend here and, if that happens, then we're also talking about some really heavy rainfall amounts, you know, well inland and that's going to have a bearing on all the folks that have evacuated from the coastal areas. They're going to have to be very, very careful from that inland freshwater flooding.
KING: I thought mountains stop a hurricane and there's no mountains there.
MAYFIELD: No, it's not -- you don't have to have mountains. You know, a hurricane (INAUDIBLE) and gets its source of energy from the more motion and if you move that source of energy, if you move a hurricane from water over land it loses that source of energy. It's kind of like boiling water on the stove. If you turn off the heat, the water stops boiling.
KING: Thanks Max, we'll be checking back with you and back with all of our guests right after this.
KING: Anderson Cooper with the mayor in Galveston, we lost you there for a while. What happened?
COOPER: Well, we're actually on the sea wall and the water is coming up rather quickly and it got some of our equipment wet. Is this normal for the water to come up like this?
THOMAS: In a storm absolutely. The waves are splashing.
KING: Mayor, we asked you this before when we couldn't reach you. What's your worst fear?
THOMAS: Loss of life and, of course, the destruction of property but loss of life is paramount for us here on the island.
KING: How many people would you estimate are left in Galveston?
THOMAS: Well, Larry, we're figuring about 90 percent of the city has been vacated. There are probably anywhere from maybe 3,000, 4,000 of us remaining on the island.
KING: Anderson, you've been living with this for three weeks now with New Orleans and all the rest. Do you get the Katrina feeling?
COOPER: Well, in the sense of -- no, in the sense of this city feels much different than the other places I have been. You know, the mayor got busses here yesterday, the day before that. People who didn't have cars on their own had a way to get out.
We were talking on the break. The mayor did something here which is very smart which is allowing people to leave with their pets. One of the things I think that you probably learned from Katrina people weren't leaving because they didn't want to leave behind their animals. You were encouraging people to take their animals with them.
KING: Smart idea.
Bill Nye, the Science Guy, how much energy in a hurricane? What are we talking about? It's more than an A bomb right?
NYE: Oh, my goodness, it's -- it seems to me it would be tens of thousands of atomic bombs, yes. You know if you have an inch of rain, for example, over a large city, let's say Houston you have millions of tons of water falling down.
KING: In an inch? NYE: Yes, so if you get into six inches or 30 inches just the tonnage, the weight of the water alone has enough momentum, enough oomph to knock stuff over and this is the big problem.
KING: As a science guy do they fascinate you?
NYE: Oh, yes. They do, yes. It's amazing.
KING: Real things right?
NYE: They're amazing. Just consider why do they start spinning? What makes something like this start spinning? You've seen storm clouds. You've been in drizzling rain but it's usually not in something that's going around in big, enormous circles.
KING: And we don't know why?
NYE: Oh, yes we know why, oh yes. It's the Coriolis force or Coriolis effect. It's named after a French mathematic Coriolis and when you have the combination of two accelerations, OK, so the earth is spinning and gravity is pulling things down.
KING: Love the way you explain things, OK.
NYE: Well, so when you got...
KING: We're moving and it's going down.
NYE: And so you got these two accelerations where things aren't just going at a constant speed. They're actually being sped up or slowed down and this induces, when you have something big enough like a cyclone storm, either a typhoon or a hurricane, they start to spin and so the spin makes the winds just that much more powerful and the tendency of things to flee the center, the centrifugal pattern creates that hollow space and then right there you get this difference in speeds, the sheer that really makes the thing just well destructive by human standards.
KING: Rob Marciano, in the middle of it do you get to be in awe of it?
MARCIANO: Oh, absolutely. It's one of the reasons I love going out into them. I mean anybody that's in the weather business, anybody that's a meteorologist has an incredible fascination with weather.
There are a lot of people watching tonight that go to work at 9:00 to 5:00 jobs that have a fascination with weather just looking up into the sky every day and watching the weather change.
And, we in the meteorology field have a passion for it and being out in it is the only way to really taste it. I was in local news for ten years handcuffed to the studio when the big storms came in and it's a whole other experience and it really gives you a different perspective as to what these storms can do when you actually see them firsthand. KING: Joining us now from Port Arthur, Texas is Mayor Oscar Ortiz, the mayor of Port Arthur. It's a town of some 60,000 on the Texas/Louisiana border. Are you expecting the worst, Mr. Mayor?
MAYOR OSCAR ORTIZ, PORT ARTHUR, TEXAS (by telephone): I sure am, Larry. This thing is looking at us right down out throats. You know I called a mandatory evacuation here a couple of days ago for Sabine Pass. That's a little community that sometime tomorrow between ten in the morning and two o'clock in the afternoon will be completely under water and then, of course, after that then the city of Port Arthur will follow.
So, I've had to move the command center now to Beaumont because we have a couple of military vessels over there, the Vinson and they've allowed us to use that for a possible command center, so we're kind of -- we're going to be kind of hard-pressed here tomorrow.
KING: Where do all the evacuees go?
ORTIZ: OK, we've sent them north out of the city of Beaumont up to Nacogdoches, Texas. As of today we've shipped out over 75 busloads. We've also had two C-130s come in from the government to take some of our people out that couldn't travel on busses, so we've evacuated most probably 95 percent of the city.
KING: Where will you be?
ORTIZ: Well, I can't leave. I guess I'm the captain of the ship, Larry. I can't leave. I'm going to be in Beaumont on the fifth floor and I'm having all our police vehicles put inside the Vinson, which is a military cargo shi, as I said, so that hopefully when the storm subsides and we can get out, we can get some of our vehicles back on the road again. I'm having everything moved.
We were originally going to go to Lumberton, Texas but we found out that the high school there can only sustain 110 mile-an-hour winds and we're figuring that Lumberton will be hit with about 135 mile-an- hour winds.
I may also say this, Larry that our levee, our sea levee that we have protecting our downtown can only handle up to 14, 16 feet and, as you heard one of your weathermen tell you that the surge is going to be well over 20 feet, so our downtown will be under water most probably sometime tomorrow night.
KING: Are the mayors all working together?
ORTIZ: Yes, sir. The mayors of the city of Port Arthur, Beaumont, Texas, (INAUDIBLE) we've all been meeting constantly at meetings at ten in the morning, four o'clock in the afternoon and ten o'clock at night. As a matter of fact, I have another meeting again tonight at 10:30.
KING: Thank you, mayor, we'll stay posted with you and good luck, Mayor Oscar Ortiz, the mayor of Port Arthur, Texas.
We'll be back with lots more of LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.
LARRY KING, HOST: This just in, dateline Houston, a shift to the east in the predicted path of Hurricane Rita. Traffic jams and a lack of fuel along evacuation routes has prompted Bill White, the mayor of Houston, to urge residents of non-threatened coastal areas to stay home if they haven't already begun fleeing by tonight. Do you agree with that, Chad Myers?
CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: You know at some point, Larry, the winds get too stiff, you can't leave and you have to hunker down. But I'll tell you what has just happened. This is developing news. In the past literally hour I want you to follow this line that I painted on the satellite picture and notice the last frame. This hurricane turned left. It turned left in the past half hour. I now have four frames of it turning to the left. It could be a little wobble. It could wobble back.
But the more it turns back to the left, Larry, the more Houston is in danger. And I'll tell you what; we've been talking about this category three, category four thing all day long, all night long. I want you to forget about it. I want you to forget about that five, four, 160, 170 issue, the miles per hour. They don't matter.
This is a huge storm. Category four in the middle right now. Category three, two, one, and tropical storm force winds almost 300 miles across. If -- even if it gets back to a category five, that's just a tiny fraction of this storm. This is going to cause devastation, whether it's 160, 150, or 145.
KING: Sam Champion, that turn west, what does it say to you?
SAM CHAMPION, WABC-TV N.Y. METEOROLOGIST: Well, it could be a wobble. There is a warmer pocket of water that was just to the north and west of where it spent the day today. There really isn't any reason for it to have steered in that direction, but they do wobble a little bit. And again, I don't necessarily agree with not paying attention to the categories. I think it's important. But I think we should just treat it as if it were the strongest storm and kind of leave it at that.
A small fluctuation doesn't make that much of a difference. That's true. Just like a small wobble in the system shouldn't make that much of a difference. It is still a north Texas, western Louisiana situation. If that wobble turns into a direct movement for much more -- and Chad's looking at it -- so if it's much more than an hour or two it looks like it's steering that way, we'll get on top of that and make some adjustments to where we think the storm will go.
But for right now I would still paint it exactly the way it's been painted, and that is from that north Texas coast all the way to Louisiana, consider this to be a very powerful hurricane. If you're in the coastal areas you need not to be in those areas, particularly if they were evacuated. And for the folks in Houston, this storm system is not just a coastal concern. It moves inland. And there's going to be several inches of rain. It's going to move from Houston into that north Texas, near Oklahoma, and sit there for Sunday into Monday. Now fresh water flooding and heavy rainfalls and tornadic storms are all a part of a landing hurricane. So you know if you can evacuate to a safe zone I would do so. If you feel like that you can hunker down in Houston and they're telling that you can do that, then you need to know how...
CHAMPION: ... to prepare your home to survive that kind of storm, Larry.
KING: Bill Nye wanted to add something.
BILL NYE, "THE SCIENCE GUY": Yes, I've got a question. Is that wobble, was that induced by that warm water eddy, and would that extra little push of warm water add energy to the storm?
CHAMPION: That's exactly -- you know, we had -- Larry, the gentleman from NASA last night, is it Sheppard (ph)?
CHAMPION: He's great with these -- I learned so much just from talking to him on these. And we're still trying to understand them. But it seems like when they find these deep-water pools, and we're still studying it, that these hurricanes do gain a little strength. Now, there's a question of whether or not there will be a combatant shear to the storm that will kind of weaken it as much as it gets the strength from the water. So much of that we're still learning about, Bill.
CHAMPION: But there is the expectation that it certainly can gather some strength and it may have actually twisted to seek that.
KING: Chad Myers wants to jump back in -- Chad.
MYERS: Larry, I'm glad when a plan comes together because the map behind me is going to show you that eddy. It's going to show you the Loop Current. This is out of the University of Colorado. The Loop Current, part of some very warm water -- here's Florida. Here's Texas. There's Cancun. And the storm yesterday went right over this Loop Current.
(UNINTELLIGIBLE) this storm went from 109 miles per hour to 175 miles per hour as it was going over this warm water. Today it lost the warm water, it missed it. It's a little bit farther to the west. So our wind speeds went down. And that right there is exactly what Sam Champion is talking about. That is the next little warm eddy, right there in the Gulf of Mexico. Then it loses that warmth before it hits land. But boy, right on top of that with this map here from the University of Colorado.
KING: Anderson Cooper, does this add to your concerns?
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: It certainly does. You know the mayor was actually just listening to this announcement about the little bit of a jog to -- back to the left. I mean, do you think people should leave here if -- at this point?
MAYOR LYDA ANN THOMAS, GALVESTON: No, if people haven't left the island by now, they need to make up their minds. They're going to have to stay here mainly because of the traffic. They're not going to get anywhere. So they need to stay here. We may very well have to open a shelter of some kind.
We don't like to do that because the island is not safe. But we'll be looking around tomorrow to see how many people are still here. Hopefully, between now and tomorrow, noon, people will continue to leave, but I don't know how far they get. They may get as far as Texas City, and that's it. Traffic is terrible.
COOPER: It's one of the frustrating things, Larry. You know I mean these little jogs you know on a map suddenly make a huge difference here on the ground and you have to kind of rethink the way you're thinking about everything. For the last couple of hours we were thinking, all right, well maybe Galveston's going to you know kind of miss the worst of it if this thing jogs back a little bit, now we're just going to have to reassess things hour by hour.
KING: Mayor, thank you for this time. We appreciate it. We'll probably be calling you on you again tomorrow. And Anderson, I know you got to get ready for the top of the hour. Thanks to both of you for incredible reporting right on the scene. And we salute you, Madam Mayor.
Ken Reeves, the senior meteorologist and director of forecasting for AccuWeather. What does this turn to the west tell you?
KEN REEVES, ACCUWEATHER SENIOR METEOROLOGIST: Well, actually, Larry, I'd like to put my little two cents in on this one as well...
KING: OK, it's your money.
REEVES: It's my money. Here we go. The turn to the west, if -- you can kind of see the picture over my shoulder, there's a little bit of yellow that showed up through the Mississippi Valley today, and that's actually a little dip in the jet stream that helped to pull the system a little to the north. What's happening, that's now lifting out of the way. These storms are steered by the currents in the upper atmosphere.
The ocean content of heat, the energy out of the ocean helps control their intensity certainly and can affect their movements to a certain degree as well. Well I think what's ending up happening, Larry, is the ridge is building back over top of this storm, and what that means is -- let me just show you -- you've got the ridge like this and you're bringing the storm up into it like this, and now it's getting pushed by virtue of the flow around that high is now getting pushed to the west a bit more because the ridge is now building back over top of the storm.
That's why we're starting to see it jog to the west a little more. It may still jog west and north and west and north. But what that ridge building to the north, Larry, really worries me about is that it goes up to northeastern Texas and somebody by early next week has 30 inches of rain.
And that could be the hidden story that people don't even realize. We're covering everything that's going on along the coast and that's certainly a bad situation, but what about if somebody ends up with three feet of rain somewhere in northeast Texas or worse yet, comes back down again from the north and heads back toward Houston after hitting them once already? So I think there's a lot of interesting things going on there and when Max comes back on I'd like to ask him a question about evacuations as well, so...
KING: When we come back, I'll ask the science guy about storm surges, what caused them, what are they. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR BILL WHITE, HOUSTON: To make these evacuation plans and get people moving.
GOV. RICK PERRY, TEXAS: Wherever it makes landfall it's going to do extensive damage.
R. DAVID PAULISON, FEMA ACTING DIRECTOR: So I don't think anyone in the Gulf Coast is out of harm's way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Bill Nye, The Science Guy, the National Advisory Board of the Union of Concerned Scientists (ph), what is storm surge, and is it caused by the wind? Obviously, I guess it is.
NYE: Well, it's really caused by rising air. So hot air rises because cold air squeezes it up. And what you end up with is this depression in the atmosphere. You know the expression tropical depression.
NYE: So if you could see the atmosphere from outer space, which is what we do with satellites, there's a dip or a bowl in the atmosphere. And so that low pressure allows the pressure of the -- around that storm to squeeze the water up...
KING: It's not the wind as much as the pressure?
NYE: Right. That's the fundamental thing. But then if -- especially if you're on the northeast side of this thing, the wind doesn't help you. It's pushing that surge in at the same time and you get these enormous sea level rises.
KING: Rob Marciano, have you experienced a surge, and if so what is it like?
ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: I'd run from the surge, that's for sure, and that's what everybody should do. I mean, if there's a time where run for the hills, if that expression holds, it's during a hurricane. You just got to head for higher ground. I'll tell you, we were north of I-10 when the storm hit Biloxi and they had that 25- foot-plus storm surge. And I wouldn't want to be anywhere near it.
I -- you know, I worked down the road in Lake Charles for several years. Hurricane Audrey was their big one, back in 1957. I would listen to the old-timers talk about how that storm came in, virtually unpredicted because they didn't have much in the way of radars and satellites, and they would talk about how the water just kept rising, up to the attics they went, how the homes came off their foundations, how they floated out to sea or back to the beach, how they would hold on to dead carcasses of cattle in order to survive.
A storm surge is no place I want to be. The funny thing is, Larry, I never thought I would witness or hear those stories again. And sure enough, Hurricane Katrina came in, and we witnessed that sort of storm surge and that sort of loss of life again. If there's any good news that comes out of that, is that the folks in Houston, Galveston, they're not messing around with this one. They don't want any part of it. They don't want to experience that storm surge. They all head out of town.
KING: Sam, do satellites make it easier to forecast?
CHAMPION: Oh Larry, satellites do it all. Before we had satellites, we couldn't -- or these days, very much of it. Now I mean, we're doing a lot more with Doppler and shooting into a storm and getting winds and rain that way. But without that satellite you don't get that picture. We were never able before satellites, we were never able to see the storms and know where they were. There was a lot of guessing there. With the satellite picture you can see it, you can see it move. You can see where it's going. You can pinpoint it. You can track it. And you can forecast it.
KING: Why do they start, Bill, east -- west of Africa?
NYE: That's where the ocean is warm enough to drive it. In other words, the answer to that question is almost just so. I mean, there's enough energy in the atmosphere that you're going to have these instabilities, you're going to have whirlpools, little swirls, and where it happens is near the equator, and the interaction of the spin of the earth and the winds -- I don't want to go too far a field here, the Hadley cells, these other -- like the trade winds kind of things, allows it to start there in the mid-Atlantic.
KING: Has anyone ever seen one start?
NYE: That's what these guys do all day. I mean...
KING: They look at them begin? NYE: Oh yes, way, way out in the mid-Atlantic. They look for the beginning of the storms. And they -- and the kernel and they try to decide how big it's going to get. And they keep an eye on it. And it's a very, very complex problem. You have the water from the Gulf Stream that has a certain temperature. You have cloud cover, which affects how much insulation, how much sunlight hits the surface of the sea. And then the rate that the clouds form affects how much extra energy they get and then...
KING: It has a life of its own?
NYE: It has -- seemingly, yes.
KING: The planes that fly into them...
KING: ... why don't they turn over?
NYE: Well you know when you land in a plane, you're going 150 knots. That's about the speed of have a very strong hurricane. So planes can fly in hurricanes. It's sort of a surprising thing...
KING: You're not going to turn over?
NYE: Well, not if you're careful.
KING: They do it every day, right?
NYE: I wouldn't try it in a very small Cessna, but you can do it in a pretty good size plane of a certain weight. And you can't fly in a tornado, for example. Those winds will go...
NYE: ... twice that fast, yes, but a hurricane or cyclonic storm -- and you talk about people that really like what they do.
KING: Those people.
NYE: Yes, yes...
KING: We'll take a break and we'll be back. Learning a lot tonight. On top of Hurricane Rita. What a couple of weeks or a fortnight, as they say. Don't go away.
KING: We're back. Let's take a call. Minneapolis, hello.
UNIDENTIFIED CALLER: Question for Bill Nye.
UNIDENTIFIED CALLER: How can we lower the water temperature in the Gulf over the long term?
KING: Which would end hurricanes, right?
NYE: Well, would end them, it might curtail them. Well this gets into something we call global climate change, which is certainly happening. As the world gets warmer, there's going to be more heat energy in the atmosphere, and that heat energy is going to manifest itself in bigger and more frequent storms.
KING: It's going to get worse?
NYE: It's going to get worse. Now...
KING: So what can we do to change it?
NYE: What we can do to change it is everything. That is to say if we could use less fossil fuel, if we could use the fossil fuel we do use more efficiently, if we could develop alternative forms of energy we could, as we like to say, have it all. We could reduce global climate change, reduce the effect of hurricanes, and improve everybody's quality of life. But it's a big job. And another thing we could do, just for example, in these areas is preserve or restore wetlands, which we've destroyed.
KING: Sam Champion, people died in the past because they had bad information, right?
CHAMPION: Yes, sir or didn't have any information at all.
KING: Because I remember once that the Key West story, they thought the eye was the end of it.
CHAMPION: Yes and again, it goes back to the whole thing about satellites. Before we were able to see the storm you only knew a storm was coming when the skies got gray and the wind picked up and the rain started. And when it stopped, you felt like the storm was over. A lot of people got caught in the eyes of storms.
Also, in the big Galveston storm there's a lot of discussion, you know, in the original one, 19 -- what was it, 1900, you know did they know the storm was coming? Did they not know it was coming? A lot of people disagreed with it. There was one forecaster believed it was happening. But again, with that satellite picture you see the storm. There's no doubt there's a storm in the Gulf. Why? We've got a satellite.
KING: Mark Twain said everyone talks about the weather and no one does anything about it.
NYE: Well, they're driving out of town.
KING: That's what they're doing now. Rob, how long do you hang in Baytown?
MARCIANO: We'll stay here tonight. I think the orders are to head east. We're going to try to get to as close to the center of this thing as possible in a safe spot away from that storm surge, and in a very, very sturdy building. Likely right along the I-10 corridor. Likely in the Beaumont, likely not as far south as Port Arthur, Beaumont, Orange, Texas area. So just down the road, probably about 30 miles.
KING: Don't you get a little logged, for want of a better term, over covering this night after night, day after day? Did you need a little relief?
MARCIANO: I'd take a couple of days off at this point, to be honest with you.
MARCIANO: We all would. But you know, the reporters covering the aftermath of Katrina would. It's just -- you know the news business has its ebb and flow, and certainly the weather business does also. But this year I'm not going to kid you, has been absolutely crazy. And...
MARCIANO: ... it doesn't look like it's letting up. So we just hope to see more calmer weather -- or more calm weather, I should say, come November or December, and no monster snowstorms coming around.
KING: Hopefully. Chad Myers wants to show something based on what Bill Nye just said.
MYERS: Well, you know, he was talking about the computer models. And you know, the storm is moving that way. But does it continue to move that way? Well, the computer models are telling us a couple of different things, Larry. Fourteen different colored lines on here, 14 different programmers, 14 different programs all have a different opinion to where this thing is going.
Most of them, though, east of Houston, west of New Orleans, somewhere right there around the Sabine Pass, Beaumont, Port Arthur, so we look at these models, what they're worth.
MYERS: Sometimes they're, good sometimes they don't work worth a darn...
KING: ... could you look at one and Sam look at one and Ken look at one and Bill look at one and could you all disagree?
NYE: But let me say, they are all pretty tightly packed together there. And you know, in the 1800's people were astonished at the accuracy of weather forecasts when telegraphs were first invented and people could see weather coming from the west to the east. And now we're all complaining when it's off 10, 15 nautical miles. And of course it'll get better, as everybody works -- scientists work more -- work harder on this. But looking at that thing, the landfall looks about the same in every model, doesn't it?
MYERS: Absolutely. Sure does. Anywhere, really. Now you got -- your easternmost models, Bill, Lafayette, and then your westernmost model, Houston. One of the problems that even the guy from AccuWeather was talking about it, how this thing stops. It stops up here in Arkansas and it could rain for days, and if one of those feeder bands comes into New Orleans and stays there it could rain in New Orleans for days and that would cause more flooding that we didn't even anticipate.
NYE: Now a feeder band, that's one of those stripes you see from space, right?
MYERS: Correct. Correct. Kind of like the tooth of the buzz saw, if you will.
KING: I feel like I'm in chemistry 101.
KING: We'll take a break and be back with more. Don't go away.
KING: Joining us in Baton Rouge is Kelli O'Donnell, the partner of Rosie O'Donnell. She and Rosie are donating $3 million to help aid children displaced by Hurricane Katrina. The donation and grant information for Project Katrina can be found at www.forallkids.org. How did this come about, Kelli?
KELLI O'DONNELL, W/PARTNER ROSIE O'DONNELL GAVE $3M TO CHILD- RELATED SERVICES: Well, I'm from Baton Rouge. Baton Rouge is my hometown. So it's something that's very close to my heart. And as Rosie and I were watching everything unfold on television, we really wanted to do something that would be meaningful and we could be hands- on and really participate. So I obviously came to my hometown, which as you know, whose population basically doubled within four days, and we wanted to look into ways that we could really help the evacuees sort of get their life started again. So we've been working here. We dedicated one million to emergency relief. We've taken $2 million, and we're going to work in interim and long-term building of daycare centers and after school programs for some of the older kids.
KING: That's great (UNINTELLIGIBLE) we're going to check back again later -- either later this week or early next week about the day of fun, October 1, for evacuee kids in Baton Rouge. We salute you and give our best to Rosie...
O'DONNELL: I will. And actually, the date changed to October 15 due to the new hurricane coming in.
KING: OK. We'll check back with you for more. (CROSSTALK)
KING: Joining us on the phone is Mayor Laura Miller, the mayor of Dallas. What are you doing in big "D", Laura?
MAYOR LAURA MILLER, DALLAS (via phone): We are holding our breath, Larry, and waiting for a million people to show up on our doorstep, many of whom are in their cars at this moment sitting on clogged highways.
KING: You took in a lot from Katrina, didn't you?
MILLER: We took in 25,000 people. We filled our sports arenas and our convention center. And we started a program to raise $3 million privately to get them out into apartments and stabilize. We had just emptied those facilities when this hit. So we reluctantly went ahead and opened them back up today.
KING: Is Dallas in any danger?
MILLER: No. I mean, you know, we're going to get rain and we're going to get wind, and we hear we might get some tornadoes, so we're all bracing for that. But of course the big thing we're bracing for are all these people that are coming here to seek refuge in a city that has absorbed an awful lot of people so far.
KING: And are you saying, Mayor, come on in?
MILLER: You know we are because people are on the highways and they're frustrated and they're burning gas and gas is scarce and expensive, as we know. So we have opened up our doors, and we're a very loving city, and the American Red Cross has been a saint in our town. So we're just going to have to deal with whatever we get, and we will do that, and you guys will see that we will absorb.
KING: Thank you, Mayor. Thanks for that information. Bill, we hope we can call on you again.
NYE: Yes, sir.
KING: It's been a delight having you. And you've added a lot of information to our program...
NYE: Thank you.
KING: We really appreciate it. Sam Champion, thanks for your yeomen-like work. Ken Reeves on the spot in State College Pennsylvania. And Rob Marciano, stay healthy wherever you are.
MARCIANO: Will do.
KING: And get a rest. We'll stay atop, of course, this story on CNN 24 hours a day. We have enormous resources and lots of terrific people covering it. I think they deserve the thanks of all of us, yours truly included, for the yeoman-like work they do. No exception. Aaron Brown and Anderson Cooper, they co-anchor every night for two hours -- there they are. Anderson in Galveston and Aaron in New York. And we're going to turn it over to them right now -- Aaron Brown.
By the way, Bill Nye says hello.
AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: And hello back to him. We go back a long, long way. Thank you very much, Larry.
Good evening again everyone. It feels like here we go again, Anderson.
COOPER: It certainly does, Aaron. We're on a barrier island. It soon may be under water, a deserted barrier island by and large. About 90 percent of the people are gone and the head of Interstate 45 and the biggest traffic jam you will ever see. More from here in a moment, first back to Aaron with the latest.
BROWN: Anderson, thanks.
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